First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A crisp winter’s morning in the heart of the New Forest. A crowd of semi-wild ponies cropped a hoard of fallen crab apples with a snick and crunch of their strong teeth. We walked briskly north from Beaulieu Road station, then struck out west over a wide swathe of heather, the grey sky pressing down on the dark pines along the flat horizon.
Looking over the bridge rails of a gloopy stream at King’s Passage, we spied sprigs of bog myrtle. Plucked and rubbed between the fingers, they brought a spicy tang to the chilly air. All was as quiet as could be on this still wintry day, with only the clickety calls of stonechats and occasional snort of a pony for a soundtrack. Other walkers with scampering dogs passed on diverging tracks, without disturbing the illusion of solitude and silence so characteristic of the New Forest’s back country.
The lush grasslands of Longwater Lawn border the winding Beaulieu River, their herbage enriched by silt from winter floods. Five pones stood by the footbridge with an air of contemplating profundities. Their presence beside the slow flowing stream through the grassland would have graced the most delicate of Chinese silk paintings.
A wriggling track of pale flinty gravel is all that’s left of the ancient Salt Way, by which the precious commodity was brought inland on pack ponies from the salt pans on the Hampshire coast. The old track led on to the second half of this walk of contrasts, a network of forest rides among the trees of Denny Inclosure – ancient oaks, tall pines as straight as guardsmen, and beeches with enormously elongated limbs.
A glimpse of red-tiled Denny Lodge, once the residence of Groom Keeper and Head Forester, and we took the homeward path among bracken fronds so richly gold that we were tempted to stuff our pockets with them.
Start: Beaulieu Road Station, near Lyndhurst SO42 7YQ (OS ref SU 349063)
Getting there: Rail to Beaulieu Road station.
Road – M27 Jct 1, A337 to Lyndhurst, B3056 (‘Beaulieu’) to Shatterford car park, just before station.
Walk (8 miles; easy underfoot, but no waymarks; OS Explorer OL 22):
Rail – Platform 1, up steps, left along road; Platform 2, up steps, left across bridge. Opposite Shatterford car park, right.
Road: cross B3056.
Then: Follow gravel track north beside railway. In 300m, pass bridge on right (348067); in another 400m, fork left in dip (347071). In 50m, fork right; keep parallel with railway. In 500m, with Fulliford Passage bridge on right (345076), left along grass path. In 350m, right to cross King’s Passage bridge (342076). At 3-way fork beyond, take middle path ahead across grassland. In ½ mile, cross ridge (336084); aim to cross footbridge among trees (334086) and keep ahead.
In 300m, path bends right towards wooden fence (333088). Left here (west) on grassy, then gravel track, heading for distant Lyndhurst Church spire. In ¼ mile cross a track (329088); ahead for 500m to cross footbridge over Beaulieu River (323087). Ahead through line of trees; left (southwest) along track. Keep to left of line of trees, then aim for distant Lime Wood Hotel. In nearly 1 mile cross B3056 (317075); follow ‘Pondhead Farm’. In 350m, pass farm sheds/barns on left (318072); aim past telephone pole to cross footbridge (317070). Fork left on path into trees; bear left for 30m, then right to gate into wood (319067).
Ahead along forest ride. In 500m, left at T-junction on gravel track (324065); in 30m, right along grassy ride for ½ mile, across Little Holm Hill to go through gate (330060). Right to cycle track; left to barrier (334059); right (‘Access to Private Properties’). In 250m, at ‘Upper holding’ notice, fork left. Pass Denny Lodge on right; in 80m, just before Denny Cottage on left, turn left (334055) on woodland path with fence on right, then on in same southeast direction.
In 300m, leave trees; ahead across bridge (336053); fork left and ahead for 400m across next 2 bridges. After 2nd of these (340051), ahead and bear left on gravel path, then grass through trees. In 350m look for hollow on right beside path (344050); at cross tracks beyond with gate to right, go left. Cross bridge at Woodfidley Passage (346051); ahead, soon bearing north parallel with railway to return to car park/station.
NB: No waymarks – map, compass, Satmap very helpful!
Lunch: Drift Inn, Beaulieu Road station (02380-292342, driftinn.co.uk)
Accommodation: Beaulieu Hotel, Beaulieu Road station SO42 7YQ